Johnny Cash is one of country music’s most iconic voices. The Man in Black has many well-known songs that were hits in his time and continue to have resonance today. From his first hit song “Cry! Cry! Cry!” in 1955 to his death in 2003, Cash left behind an amazing legacy.
In his memory, below are our top 10 favorites from his discography.
1.) “Man in Black”
Released in 1971, this song reached the No. 3 position on the Billboard country charts. It’s an answer to the question of why Cash was always seen wearing black, and it’s an anthem about everything that mattered to him. It’s the heart and soul of his music and as good an introduction as any to Johnny Cash.
2.) “Ballad of a Teenage Queen”
Released in 1958, this song was one of Cash’s greatest commercial successes. It topped the charts for 10 weeks and was especially popular with teenagers.
Originally written and performed by Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” was one of Cash’s last big hits. It reached double platinum sales and was named Single of the Year by CMA. Most significantly, Reznor was recorded as saying admiringly that Cash had taken the song and made it his; for many, “Hurt” will forever be remembered as a Cash song.
4.) “Ring of Fire”
Written by June Carter, this is one of the catchiest Johnny Cash songs ever recorded. It topped the charts in 1963 and continues to be one of the most recognizable Cash songs to this day.
5.) “Daddy Sang Bass”
This song came out in 1969 and serves as a foot-tapping callback to his gospel music roots. The song was a much-needed repreive from the darkness of an era eclipsed by Vietnam War news.
6.) “Flesh and Blood”
This song came out in 1970 and was one of many love songs inspired by June Carter. It’s notable for its heartfelt earnestness. Few other love songs could rival it for its sheer raw honesty.
7.) “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
This 1970 release is a powerful collaboration between the genius of Cash and Kris Kristofferson. It resonates with the same existential gloom and weariness that appears in many Cash songs but with a heart of hope as well.
8.) “I Walk the Line”
There’s a good reason this song was chosen as the title of the Johnny Cash bio-pic. With its lyrical depth, signature sound and crossover success, this love song to his first wife remains one of Cash’s best songs.
9.) “Folsom Prison Blues”
Released in 1956, this was one of Cash’s earliest songs and also a codifier for his musical career. The song lays down many of the themes both lyrically and in terms of sound that would become synonymous with Cash in later years.
10.) “A Boy Named Sue”
With lyrics composed by Shel Silverstein, this crossover success won a Grammy in 1969. The song is pure magic, but the best part is hearing the way Cash tries to hold back his laughter as he sings through the increasingly ridiculous tale of Sue’s revenge.
Do you have a favorite Johnny Cash song not listed above? Let us know in the comments!
Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music. Prior to founding Round Hill Music, from 2002 to 2009, Mr. Gruss worked at Gruss Asset Management where he held various positions of increasing responsibility, most recently as a Partner and member of the investment and executive committees.